5th Sunday After Epiphany
February 10, 2019
Pastor Tom Schulz
1 Corinthians 14:12-20
Dear Friends in Christ,
The housing industry is in a bit of a slump. That usually happens when interest rates rise and it becomes more expensive to make payments on a house. Add in all the younger workers who are still paying off their student loans and the pool of possible buyers shrinks. All this naturally affects those who work in the building industry. It is a cyclical thing.
Even more dangerous than a slump in the housing industry is a slump in spiritual building. There’s a big difference between house building and faith building. House building demands a crew of people. Faith building is more solitary. We are each responsible for our own growth in faith. Yes, the Holy Spirit working through the Word is always present. And pastors encourage you to grow in your faith and in your Christian life. But getting that growth done is your responsibility.
In our text, Paul talks about faith building. He is encouraging you to
BE A BUILDER FOR CHRIST
I. In our text, Paul is once again talking about spiritual gifts. He zeroes in on the gift that might have the most influence on a person’s emotions.
In Corinth, a number of people in the congregation were speaking in tongues. This was ecstatic speech, not a known language. It was a way that people were praising God. However, Paul points out that if they didn’t know what they were saying in their ecstatic speech, it was of no long term value to them.
So Paul says to them, “The one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say.” He’s pointing out that the goal is to build up people’s faith. That’s why he begins this section by saying, “Since you are eager for the gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.”
Now, there is no doubt that God wants to touch our emotions. He wants you to feel the love of Christ deep within your soul. He wants you to praise him from a heart that soars with joy. Knowing what Christ Jesus has done to take away our sins is an emotional event. We look at that cross, and with tears in our eyes we might say, “How great that he has done this for me.”
Our emotions also may be affected by music. A melody of one of our hymns might start to fill us with joy even before we sing the words. However Paul says here, “I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.” It’s not just the music, but the words that are important in building up our faith.
Music can touch our emotions in a negative way also. Gerry, a member in another church, told me, “Don’t pick Amazing Grace anymore. It causes me too much pain.” You see, that song reminded him of his grandmother, the one who had raised him and was now deceased. His feelings were very personal, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Since our feelings, our emotions, are very personal, those emotions don’t have the power to build up another person in their faith. My feelings may not be your feelings, and vice versa. In Corinth, the people speaking in tongues were lifted up in their spirit. But other members of the congregation were confused by what was going on. That leads to Paul’s warning, “When you are praising God in the spirit, how can someone else say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying?” The tongues speaking was not building people up in their faith. There was no message to hang onto.
Yet, today, whipping up people’s emotions is how some Christians worship the Lord. We could try that in our congregation and it might be kind of fun. We could have the preacher dance around in front of the altar, shouting out praises to God. He could say things like, “Can I get an ‘Amen’ over here,” or “Can I get a ‘Hallelujah’ on this side.” The pastor could get people on their feet, raising their arms, clapping their hands and feeling the emotion of praising God.
If we did that, you might feel really good. You might feel like you were really involved in praising God. But on the way home, when the emotions subside and the feelings settle down, you might ask yourself, “What did we learn today? Were we really taught anything about our Savior?”
Emotions, feelings are wonderful. However, our salvation depends on facts, the facts about what Jesus has done for you. This is what builds our faith and makes you builders for Christ.
II. That’s Paul’s point here. A clear message is always better.
Paul states the obvious. “In the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than 10,000 words in a tongue.” A few clear words are more powerful than many, many words that no one else understands.
So, five words? Is that enough to build a person’s knowledge of God and knowledge of Jesus our Savior? Let’s try it. “God demands perfection from you.” “You sinned and failed God.” “Jesus came for sinful people.” “Jesus died for sinful people.” “Jesus redeemed all sinful people.” “Jesus rose to forgive sins.” “Jesus wants you in heaven.” “By faith in Jesus, you are saved.” These are clear and simple statements of Bible truth.
Not only are these clear and simple statements, they are also words that work. They go in our ears and to our brain so that we can easily understand them. By the power of the Holy Spirit, our hearts are filled with faith and hope and love. We believe what the Word of God tells us.
And those same words of love from God also affect our emotions. Sarah was a young wife and mother who was taking the Adult Information Class. The lessons were going great. Then we got to the 6th Commandment. The issue of adultery came up. When they did, tears started to flow down Sarah’s cheeks, tears of sorrow. The pastor asked her if there was something she needed to say. She confessed a time when she had cheated on her husband. She admitted it was wrong and foolish. The pastor, hearing her confession, assured her that this sin was forgiven by Jesus, her Savior. Then the tears flowed again, but this time they were tears of relief and joy.
Because we are all sinful people, it would not surprise me that you have all experienced the same emotions as Sarah. We too have tears of sorrow over something that we have done, something that hurt people and hurt God. And then we hear the gracious assurance that our God has forgiven us freely for those sins through Jesus. That good news also powerfully affects our emotions.
This is how we build the church. We preach and teach God’s Word. We don’t make it complicated because we want even the children to understand the love of Christ. This is a building process that continues from the moment we come to faith until the moment we die. Peter encourages us, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
How has your personal building project been going? Have you been building up your faith by being in contact with God’s Word on a daily basis? Or have you let that faith building project lie dormant? Have you been exercising your faith by living a life of joy and peace? Have you been exercising your faith by speaking about your peace with God through Jesus Christ? Exercise of your faith helps to build faith. If you have fallen short, repent of those sins and rejoice in the gift of God’s forgiveness.
Then praise the Lord, not just here in church, but wherever you are. Thank the Lord from the heart, rejoicing in his mercy, and celebrating his love. This will not only build up your faith, but the faith of others who believe the good news of our God. Be a builder for Christ. Amen.